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Must See's and Must Do's

Houlton, Maine
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Must See's and Must Do's

My husband and I are planning a once in a life time trip to Alaska next summer and would like to know what you recommend for Must See's and Must Do's while we are there. We will probably be there 10 - 12 days. We know we want to see Denali and ride the domed railroad, see some glaciers - would be neat to actually stand on one if possible, the bears with the salmon and sightseeing flight would be good as well. Not really into rafting or museums or history. Can you give me any specifics on any of these activities?

Is it better to try to travel with a tour or rent a car and go on our own? Thanks for any help you can give.

Wasilla, Alaska
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for Alaska
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1. Re: Must See's and Must Do's

Definitely rent a car and go on your own. Take some time to read through these forums and the Top Questions column on the right. That'll give you an idea of what's out there.

Healy, Alaska
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for Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska
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2. Re: Must See's and Must Do's

I agree with the above poster - rent your car and do your own thing - really!

Try to read many of the trip reports on the forum - it will give you a good idea of what people do and see while they are here, and how to maximize your time here. Happy planning! :)

Anchorage, Alaska
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3. Re: Must See's and Must Do's

Can you tell us a little about yourselves (e.g. age, physical limitations, sea-sick, etc) and posters could list things like hikes that might be more of a walk or something that might be more difficult.

Scott

p.s. - I agree with the above 2 posters on renting a vehicle; though depending on your likes/dislike it could possibly be a motorhome.

Houlton, Maine
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39 posts
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4. Re: Must See's and Must Do's

Thanks for your suggestions regarding renting a car. Is there somewhere where we could experience the train at some point of our trip along with the car rental? We are a couple in our early 50's. We love adventure and exploring. We are quite physically fit so We do like to hike but are a little apprehensive of hiking in grizzly country. We would enjoy a flight seeing excursion - any suggestions as to where to go for that? Also, kayaking, exploring little shops in unique towns and a possible day cruise to see glaciers would all be high on our list. Thanks for any and all info.

Manitoba, Canada
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5. Re: Must See's and Must Do's

What do you mean by seeing "the bears with the salmon"? Did you mean a bear-viewing tour? Your chance of seeing bears catching salmon is very small without one...

Which month are you going?

"Is there somewhere where we could experience the train at some point of our trip along with the car rental?"

Does it have to be a domed car? I was going to suggest going to Whittier your first day for a glacier cruise, but the domed cars can't fit through the Tunnel.... I suppose the best trip would be a day trip to Seward. You didn't mention anything about wanting to see marine wildlife, so I don't know if you'd be interested in doing a Kenai Fjords NP cruise there, but there are lots of other things to do, including taking a taxi or shuttle out to Exit Glacier for an easy 1 hr. hike to the face of the glacier. Better still, if you're in good condition, consider doing the Exit Glacier Guides' hike right on the glacier and get to explore crevasses, etc.

Healy, Alaska
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for Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska
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6. Re: Must See's and Must Do's

You could take the train to Seward - one place you can get around w/o rental car.

Glacier cruise - from Whittier or Seward

Flight seeing - from Talkeetna and Denali park.

Towns with little shops - Seward & Homer are the first that come to mind - Denali Park has some, but not really a unique town experience.

With some knowledge, you can hike in bear country - really. :)

Houlton, Maine
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7. Re: Must See's and Must Do's

In answer to your bear question, yes - would like to do bear viewing tour. Where is the best place to do that? I think we are looking at the month of August of next year. Your suggestions sound great - thanks so much.

Ann Arbor, MI
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for Michigan, Ann Arbor
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8. Re: Must See's and Must Do's

Hi--don't let your apprehension about hiking in grizzly country hold you back. Do a search in the AK forum for hiking in bear country and look at the state of AK and Denali NP's bear safety information to inform yourself on smart hiking and then plan to do the hikes that strike your fancy.

If it is a once-in-a-lifetime chance and you enjoy hiking, don't short change yourself from having some great hiking adventures because of your apprehension about the bears.

Manitoba, Canada
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9. Re: Must See's and Must Do's

For bear-viewing, day trips can be done out of Anchorage, Soldotna, and Homer. In August, I can recommend Bald Mt. Air out of Homer. I did that tour in 2009. You can find a link to my report in post 2 of this thread, which gives lots of info on other tours: tripadvisor.com/…30700066

If you're nervous of bears, do your hikes where there are other hikers not far away. Harding Icefield has a Ranger-led hike on Saturdays in July & August. Russian River Falls usually has people within ear-shot. In Denali, you could do your hiking near Eielson Visitor Center--again, usually people in sight or ear-shot. Avoid hiking through heavy brush where you can't see very well.

Another thing you can do is wait at trail-heads for another couple to come along, and either fall in behind them if they're going your pace, or ask if you can join them. You might make a new friend, and there is literally safety in numbers...there's never been a bear attack on a group of 4 or more people. In fact, bear attacks in Alaska are rare, and usually involve someone doing something stupid (like surprising a bear or getting between the bear and its food or cubs). The single best thing you can do is make noise (talk, sing, clap your hands), because if the bears hear you coming, almost always they move away.

Anchorage, Alaska
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10. Re: Must See's and Must Do's

There are some great hikes to do in AK and with a little common sense (& research/reading) you'll find that even though it is "bear country", you'll be glad you did them. Even better there is so little cost involved with most hiking, the rewards are even greater!

Here are some hikes which I love and aren't to difficult (actually easy):

- Winner Creek (Girdwood) . Do this hike from near the entrance to Crow Creek Mine. The hand tram over the gorge is a blast and then a couple hundred more yards gets you to a great creek (www.alaskahikesearch.com/Hikes/Winner.htm)

- Byron Glacier (Portage) - great photo ops and play on the foot of a glacier here (www.trailheadfinder.com/trail_editor/show/757)

- Matanuska Glacier hike/trek (http://www.micaguides.com/glacier.html)

- Russian River Falls (see salmon jumping if in season):

alaska101.com/exploreAlaska/cooperl/alaska_t…

Here's a great, hard hike (allow 6 to 8 hrs) which has fantastic views (especially at the end). The Harding Icefield (near Seward at Exit Glacier) - nps.gov/kefj/…harding_icefield_trail.htm

My favorite hiking site:

http://www.alaskahikesearch.com/index.htm

These are some really fun activities and you could easily use 3 or 4 days doing these activities.

Vehicle rentals:

- you are wise/lucky to be planning so far in advance. Vehicle rental in AK gets VERY expensive the closer you get to tourist season. The sooner you book a car, the better. Even once you book a car, check back frequently to try and get a better deal.

- RV/motorhome; if an RV is a consideration, it's the sort of the same deal (re pricing) as a car... closer to tourist season = high prices. Sometimes in the fall (i.e. Oct/Nov 2011 for a 2012 rental) Great Alaskan Holidays &/or ABC Rentals offer a great deal for booking way ahead.

Good luck & enjoy AK,

Scott

p.s. - if you'e exhibiting a concern about bears you are exhibiting signs of intelligence. I would suggest that you do not let thoughts/worries of bears influence you to not do something as long as you do some follow-up reading/research (& you've lots of time for that) on the topic of hiking in bear country. Already, you'll find that M.Maple gave you the best (& most common) advice for co-existing with these amazing animals.